In the current times we find ourselves in it is important to try and focus on even the smallest of positives. While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a massive toll on everyone in the nation, migrants living in the UK have some extra concerns on their minds in terms of how their and their family members’ visas may be affected.
To alleviate the very serious impact the virus has had on migrants, the Home Office has usefully updated its guidance to its caseworkers when dealing with family visa applications made under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. The updated guidance allows some leeway in relation to the minimum income threshold for entry clearance, limited leave to remain and indefinite leave applications.
What are family visas?
They generally refer to visas family members apply for to live and settle with their loved ones in the UK under the Immigration Rules. They include applications for partners (spouse, unmarried partner, civil partners), bereaved partners, victims of domestic violence, children, parents and dependent adult relatives. Majority of such applications are currently dealt with by Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, although occasionally they also fall into the realm of other paragraphs.
What are the financial requirements for such visas?
Under the Immigration Rules, the financial requirements for such applications are high and rigid in two ways:
One: applicants are normally required to meet certain minimum income threshold. It is an annual income of £18,600 for one applicant, £22,400 for two applicants and plus £2,400 for each additional applicant thereafter.
Two: applicants need to provide a certain set of specific documents to demonstrate that they have met the requirements. In the context of employment, they will normally be six months’ payslips, 6 months bank statements and employer’s confirmation to confirm the income. In the context of self-employment and specified companies, Normally 12 months’ evidence of income is required.
Applications are likely to be refused if the applicants fail to meet both of the above requirements.
What have the Home Office revealed?
In the latest guidance the Home Office have said that certain concessions will apply where there is a temporary loss of income between 1 March 2020 and 1 January 2021, meaning people are less likely to face consequences if they have been unable to generate the income needed to meet their visa requirements.
The concessions are as followed:
- a temporary loss of employment income between 1 March and 1 January 2021, due to coronavirus, will be disregarded provided the minimum income requirement was met at the required level for at least six months up to March 2020
- an applicant or sponsor furloughed under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be deemed as earning 100% of their salary
- a temporary loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 1 January 2021 will generally be disregarded for self-employment income, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications
- evidential flexibility may be applied where an applicant or sponsor experiences difficulty accessing specified evidence due to coronavirus restrictions
These are much welcome and necessary allowances, which the Home Office have said are there to “ensure applicants are not disadvantaged as a result of circumstances beyond their control because of COVID-19.”
What do we think?
We are pleased to see the guidance updated in this way, as we understand many people will have been deeply concerned about their financial situation amid the pandemic. It is a good move by the government to take the pressure off some migrants who have found their work and income has been impacted by coronavirus. It also allows them to have taken advantage of the financial support scheme offered by the government without fear of it negatively impacting their visa in the future, which would ultimately be counter-productive and illogical.
Although the above concessions are stated for family visa applications made under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, it is our belief that the same principles and spirits should equally be applied to other types of visa applications, whenever there is evidence to show that the applicants have been affected by the pandemic due to no fault of theirs and are unable to meet the relevant requirements or produce the relevant specified documents.
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